When little “Sinya” arrived in the Nairobi Nursery, having been rescued from a Well near the Tanzanian Border close to Amboseli National Park on the 13th October 2007, we could clearly see that she had been through the mill, for there was obvious evidence of immense bruising on her body, with a large swollen area on her back plus abrasions on her right foreleg and under the chin and ears aside from the very obvious Hyena bites through her trunk. However, not even the Vets, both Dieter Rotcher and Sanjay, who have come regularly to attend to her anticipated the extent of the tissue damage that she had endured. This soon became evident as huge slabs of tissue began to turn necrotic above suppurating wounds. The Trunk wounds gave us problems in the beginning, closing the air passages and preventing her breathing while feeding, but these wounds healed remarkably quickly. The back wound was the cause of greatest anxiety, since it was deep and close to the spine.
From long experience we have learnt the power of alternative remedies when it comes to healing wild animals, and providence last year had brought to our attention the use of “Zoopharmacognosy”, which, in short, is the study of animals selecting aromatic plants and plant essential oils, algae, clay and other natural remedies for health maintenance.
Cleaning Sinya’s wounds entailed restraining her physically and involved a great deal of pain and trauma to an already traumatized baby. She dreaded each and every day, immediately fearful as soon as she saw the Vet and the Keepers congregating to subdue her. Daily antibiotic injections didn’t help matters either. We contacted Caroline Ingraham who had written an Animal Aromatics Workbook and who kindly offered her expertise in this sphere should help be needed for our elephant and rhino orphans. Thanks to the generosity of British Airways, who give us immense support, she was flown complimentary to Kenya, and was able to start working on Sinya on the 10th October. By now it appeared that it would be necessary to sedate Sinya so that more aggressive cleaning of the wounds could take place.
This, following two long courses of injectible antibiotic which were necessary to forestall more serious problems such as pneumonia and septicemia, would leave the elephant’s immune system dangerously depressed, so the arrival of Caroline was a wonderful complement to the conventional medicine Sinya required. Included amongst her essential oils was a large supply of garlic oil, which is hostile to bacteria and helps ward off infection. She explained that garlic essential oil is chemically different from the garlic flakes, powders, capsules or indeed, the bulb itself, and has far greater healing powers, so it was enlightening that Sinya simply could not get enough of this, inhaling the vapour to clear her trunk, blowing out what appeared like dust, pulling Caroline’s hand into her mouth, seeking the bottle itself when it was sequestered in a pocket, and begging for it to be dribbled neat onto her tongue. Red Clay was another essential ingredient for the wounds themselves applied where raw flesh and blood was obvious, after which Green Clay and tumeric was added to provide a top covering and dry out the wounds, as well as draw out impurities whilst allowing the wounds to still breathe. It also inhibits bacteria from entering damaged tissue and instantly got rid of all the flies and provided a much needed protective covering.
Within days, the wounds looked so much better and the Vets confirmed that there was no longer the need for the aggressive cleaning under anaesthesia. We heaved a sigh of relief, as did they, and gradually over the following days, healthy tissue began to emerge beneath necrotic dead skin, which can be slowly cut away so that healing can take place.
The Trust is deeply grateful to Caroline Ingraham for introducing us to these potent plant based remedies, and to Alan Howell of Shechina Co., who so generously donated them free of charge for this very brave and very precious elephant baby from the famous Amboseli population. She has taught us a great deal, as Sinya’s wounds have been some of the worst we have ever been faced with. She has endured so much, not least of all the loss of her family, but unimaginable pain over many weeks. Because animals are far closer to Nature than us humans, who have seriously digressed, we have a great deal to learn from them and an even greater amount that we need to learn about the healing properties of the Plant Kingdom available for all within Nature’s pharmacopeias.